A new campaign is calling for buying sex to be made illegal in an attempt to ban prostitution in Scotland.
The End Prostitution Now campaign is being backed by the Women's Support Project and the Glasgow Violence Against Women Partnership. Liz Curran, from the Women's Support Project, told BBC Scotland:
The crux of this campaign is about challenging the demand for prostitution which is inherently harmful to women. We have to tackle the root cause and from our campaign's point of view that is gender inequality and men's demand.
The vast majority of women who are involved in prostitution are not there through choice. A small minority of women may make it a choice but the law does not represent the interest of minorities.
Molly (not her real name) from Scotpep, a sex workers' rights organisation which works with prostitutes on the streets and in saunas, explained the dangers inherent in the feminist campaign:
When the client is criminalised he is more jumpy.
He needs to get away quickly and that means the worker has to get into his car more quickly if she wants to keep his business.
That cuts down on the crucial time that she has to talk about services and prices and to assess whether he seems safe, whether he seems drunk, to write down his car registration number. So there is a huge increase in violence associated with
laws like this.
Labour MSP Rhoda Grant has submitted amendments to the Human Trafficking and Exploitation (Scotland) Bill in the hope of banning prostitution. She tried to justify her morality amendment:
It's now illegal to purchase sex in Northern Ireland. We need to follow suit to stop Scotland becoming a haven for sex traffickers moving out of Northern Ireland and into a more hospitable environment here.
British women are paying for sexual services because they want great sex, are too busy for relationships or do not want to have a conventional relationship.
These are the initial findings of a new study which has been launched into women who buy sexual services.
The study, led by Dr Sarah Kingston of Lancaster University, and co-led by Dr Natalie Hammond at Manchester Metropolitan University, will potentially be one of the most in-depth analyses of the subject ever undertaken in the UK.
Researchers have spoken to 21 escorts in the UK who are paid for their sexual services. Now they want to speak to their female clients to find out more about the experiences of women who pay for sex. Their early findings reveal that women who pay
for sex come from all backgrounds and ages, although there is a common trend that women are in their thirties and forties.
Dr Kingston, a Lecturer in Criminology at Lancaster University, has research interests in the sex industry, policy and law. She explained:
We have made some fascinating early findings, but we still have much work to do. We are seeking to explore motivations and experiences of women who book escorts; who and where they buy sex from and to explore how physical and sexual safety is
The study involves interviewing men, women, transgendered and transsexual people who sell sexual services to women, as well as women who purchase sexual services.
We still want to speak to women who buy sexual services. This will be completely confidential and they will not be identified in any way. Phone and Skype interviews have been popular so far, and we are flexible on methods. Speaking directly with
women will provide us with a valuable insight into how and why they engage in this activity.
The research team explained:
Some of our participants say most of the women who buy sex are professional people, some of whom may simply want pleasurable sexual experiences. Paying an escort is described as a way of ensuring discretion, as opposed to other ways of securing
In some instances women were very specific about the services they required. This came across in some interviews with escorts who had one-to-one bookings with women. Escorts relay how women with specific requests email their expectations ahead
However, some women also pay for more than just sexual intercourse, they might go for a drink or meal with their chosen escort before progressing onto sexual contact, which some escorts describe as the 'boyfriend experience'.
It is also evident that women purchase sexual services as part of a couple. The majority of the escorts interviewed see couples, stating they are booked for regular excitement and fun, or simply for a relationship treat. In couples, some men
appeared more nervous than their female partner.
From 1st June, 2015 a new law in Northern Ireland criminalising the purchase of sex will come into effect. This will make Northern Ireland the only region of the United Kingdom to adopt the repressive Nordic model, after a similar bill failed to
pass in Scotland in 2013.
The bill was passed in Northern Ireland's Stormont assembly by 81 votes to 10 last October despite research commissioned by the Department of Justice in Northern Ireland that concluded that Northern Ireland's adoption of the Nordic Model would
not be in sex workers' best interests.
As we reported last year, the research from Queen's University found that trafficking victims account for less than 3% of people working in the sex trades, fewer than 10 people. More than a third of clients surveyed believed that paying for sex
was already illegal. Of the 171 sex workers questioned, less than 2% supported criminalisation of clients, 61% saying that it would make them less safe.
A press release from the Northern Ireland Executive was published on 20th May. It said that:
Under section 15 of the Human Trafficking and Exploitation (Criminal Justice and Support for Victims) Act (Northern Ireland) 2015, it will become an offence to obtain sexual services in exchange for payment, either by paying, or promising to
pay, any person directly, or through a third party.
This replaces the offence of paying for the sexual services of a prostitute subjected to force, where it is currently unlawful to pay for the sexual services of a prostitute who has been exploited by a third party using force or threats. This
offence, which is an offence whether or not the person buying the services knows of the exploitation, carries a maximum penalty of a level 3 (£1,000) fine.
Under the new law, it will be illegal to obtain, for payment, sexual services from anyone, whether or not there is exploitation. The sexual services which will be illegal must involve the buyer being physically present with the seller and there
must either be physical sexual contact or the seller must perform sexual acts where they touch themselves for the sexual gratification of the buyer.
Under the legislation, payment includes money or the provision of goods or services.
Anyone convicted under the new legislation can be sentenced to a maximum of one year's imprisonment, or a fine, or both.
It is not an offence to sell sexual services. The new law also removes criminality from loitering or soliciting for the purposes of offering services as a prostitute in a street or public place. It remains an offence to keep or manage a brothel.
Glasgow City Council has long been a hotbed of PC extremists who advocate that jailing men and destroying their families is a price worth paying so that councillors can feel good about their 'equality'.
Councillor James Coleman has called upon Justice Minister Michael Matheson to make a public commitment to target and challenge men's demand for paid-for sexual services. He said:
We support the current Human Trafficking and Exploitation (Scotland) Bill but believe it is limited by the fact it does not adequately address the cause of commercial sexual exploitation.
We are also fully supportive of the Scottish Government's 'Equally Safe' strategy, which recognises prostitution and trafficking as forms of commercial sexual exploitation that ultimately harm women.
The city council agreed to call upon the Justice Minister to address the issue of demand, and to introduce comprehensive legislation in Scotland to criminalise the purchase of sex and to decriminalise and support those exploited through
prostitution. The motion, which was seconded by SNP group leader Susan Aitken, was agreed at a meeting of the full council.
Legislation to tackle human trafficking and better protect its victims will be debated by MSPs. The Human Trafficking and Exploitation Bill was brought forward by the Scottish Government to strengthen existing criminal law against the
practice and enhance the status of and support for victims.
Moralist campaigners inevitably called for the buying of sex to be criminalised as part of the legislation. Churches and Christian organisations proclaimed that the Bill offers a golden opportunity to make the purchase of sex illegal.
But others such as Amnesty argue that conflating human trafficking and prostitution within one piece of legislation will not do justice to either issue.
Justice secretary Michael Matheson said earlier this year that he would meet campaigners on both sides before the Scottish Government comes to a final position on the matter. But after taking evidence from a range of groups and organisations, the
committee concluded the legislation was not the right vehicle for addressing the issue of criminalising the buying of sex.
Sex workers in Edinburgh are facing increased health risks following the controversial police crackdown on saunas, a new report has revealed. Fewer women are attending the specialist NHS clinic set up to support them, and reports show that
sexually transmitted infections have increased.
A series of police raids on saunas in 2013, known as Operation Windermere, was seen as signalling the end of Edinburgh's traditional pragmatic approach to prostitution.
Now sex workers are also giving up on condoms, with saunas refusing to stock them because police can use possession of them as evidence of selling sex.
The report for the city council's health and social care committee, which draws together evidence from various agencies involved with sex workers, also said many women had moved away from saunas and now operated from other venues, like flats or
lap-dancing bars. The report also said:
There is no evidence that the number of women selling sex in Lothian has reduced, but they are not attending for support from NHS Lothian in the same volumes as in previous years.
Anecdotally, we hear of women now selling sex in other venues, such as lap-dancing bars, and more women are informing us that they are working from flats and advertising on the internet.
Chlamydia had increased by two per cent and cases of hepatitis B and C were also up. The report said:
The problem of unprotected intercourse may have been precipitated by fear of being found by the police to be in possession of condoms, which can be used as evidence to indicate the selling of sex.
NHS Lothian supplies condoms to saunas, but since Operation Windermere, many managers of these premises are reluctant to have condoms stored there.
Compounding this risk is the problem that these venues are quieter, and some reports have indicated that women are consequently competing for work and will practice unprotected intercourse in order to generate a larger income.
These findings come as no surprise to Scot-Pep who have long campaigned against aggressive enforcement action taken by Police Scotland against sex workers. Stewart Cunningham, Co-chair of SCOT-PEP said:
Since the police raided saunas in Edinburgh, the situation for sex workers has worsened dramatically.
Many have disclosed they feel increasingly threatened by law enforcement and the risk of arrest. Welfare agencies continue to work in co-operation with the police, which makes sex workers distrustful of them and reluctant to engage. This is
reminiscent of the experiences of Glasgow-based sex workers who have been working in a context that has prioritised zero-tolerance over a harm reduction approach for a number of years.
Traditionally, sex workers in Edinburgh felt better protected by the police than those working in Glasgow but with the enactment of Operation Windermere, where police raided sex worker premises and in some instances strip-searched women, this
trust that they could rely on the police for protection has gone.
One woman, who spoke to SCOT-PEP in the aftermath of the police raids, described the way she had been treated by officers: I felt very bad, so violated. I've never been so humiliated in my life.
Police Scotland also routinely use condoms as evidence in prosecuting sex workers, as the council has noted. This flies in the face of all international guidance and must stop.